Software Localization—How to Make It Work
February 26, 2019
February 26, 2019
Now that we know that software localization is very important for entering new markets with your software, web, or mobile application and now that we have discussed the common mistakes software developers make when they translate software, let’s talk about how to do it right. So you want to localize your software or mobile application. What should you do now?
Think of Software Localization From the Beginning
Ideally, you should start thinking of what you need to do to translate software even before you begin initial coding. This is how all the larger companies develop new products and apps; they know that even if a new software tool is launched in English only, it will eventually be localized into dozens of other languages. Therefore they develop with all of the texts in proper language resource files that will be available for localization at any point later on.
We know smaller startups sometimes do not always develop this way. They have a brilliant idea and rush to make it work without thinking of how to localize later. Then they have a brilliant product without a language resource file and with tons of shorter strings scattered throughout the code which are impossible to localize.
Choose the Best Language Service Provider
Hopefully we have persuaded you in previous articles that:
- You should not use machine translation for localization. Even if you are tempted to instantly translate dozens of languages for free, you should think of the negative effect it will have on your product and what that will cost you long-term.
- You should not ask just anyone who speaks a foreign language to work on localization of your software.
- You should hire freelance translators only if you have plenty of time to select the most efficient and reliable among them and if you are sure you will have the time to manage them properly.
And now you should focus on selecting the best language service provider (LSP). How to choose the best one? Well, obviously in this digital age, you should focus on the online reputation of the providers you consider and ask other software developers for recommendations. If they are happy with the LSP they work with, they will probably be happy to share it.
Another option could be to go to the largest translation agencies on the market and try to hire them for your localization project. However, those translation agencies that provide services to big names, such as Apple or Google, will not offer you the best price unless you want a huge volume.
Also you need to understand that the largest translation and localization companies hire the same freelancers that you could hire yourself. The difference is that they have resources to manage them for you. And of course they pay those freelancers only a fraction of what they charge you, so they probably won’t be hiring the best translators anyway.
Where you will probably be able to find the best people along with reasonable rates, are boutique translation agencies. Those are smaller agencies that specialize in specific industries (such as IT). They sometimes work with only the major languages, and they have long-term relationships with the best freelancers that are built on trust and reasonable pay rates. Experience shows this is the approach that guarantees the best value in localization and translation. We at IVANNOVATION follow this approach in our work. We will always be happy to discuss with you your project to understand if our services will be a good fit.
Be Open and Available to Your Localization Provider When You Translate Software
Even after you decide on the best language service provider, you should not just assign the project and then forget it until the deadline. Chances are, the translators working on localization of your software or mobile application will have questions about context, the specific location of this or that string, and the functionality of a specific UI element. It’s not because they are lazy or can’t do their research; it’s because there are some things about the text and software that only you as the developer or owner know. And you should be able to share the knowledge.
What we recommend is making all the screenshots available; this will facilitate the process for everyone, and you will need to answer fewer questions regarding specific locations of this or that button or drop-down list.
You could also offer access to a demo version of the software to the individual translators working on the localization. And of course if you have any user guides or FAQs, make sure the translators know they exist and are able to use them.
Another useful tool is building an online Q&A spreadsheet where all the translators from all the different language teams will be able to ask questions, browse questions asked by other people and read answers from software owners—you. Make sure to visit and answer questions frequently—at least a couple of times per day—when localization is underway. This will help avoid unnecessary exchanges of endless emails with queries—as well as incorrect or inappropriate translations.
Free Resource: Get our Q&A Spreadsheet Template!
Be Open and Available to Your Users
You know who you build your software product for, right? Your users. And they know what they want better than anyone else. Chances are, even better than you. If you already have a user base in the countries you are going to target with your localized product, consider involving them in the localization process.
Mind you, we are definitely not suggesting crowd sourcing the entire software translation. Some companies with huge user bases, such as Facebook or Twitter, are often tempted to ask their users to localize the products, but they end with such poor localization that reworking takes a lot of time and effort of professional translators.
Make Sure LQA Is Part of the Localization Process
LQA is basically linguistic testing of the already localized software or mobile application. It is performed by a local user who is preferably a linguist. The purpose is to make sure that everything works fine in the live UI, that no text overlaps images or other text, that there are no truncations or other problems that can happen to any localized text in the UI.
Ideally LQA is performed on a testing installation so that users don’t see such problems live at all. The identified problems are reported and fixed by developers so that users don’t report clumsy mistakes on Twitter for everyone to laugh at. However, LQA is such an important step that we will talk about it in detail in our next post so stay tuned!
Software Localization Series
This is part 3 of our software localization series. See the other parts below.
- Software Localization—Don’t Make This Fatal Error
- 5 Software Localization Mistakes That You Don’t Want to Make
- Software Localization—How to Make It Work